Random House Films, in tandem with Focus Features, options Beth Raymer's "Lay the Favorite, Take the Dog," an unpublished memoir about her odyssey through the world of sports betting.
Raymer is represented on literary rights by Andrew Blauner (Blauner Books Literary Agency) and on film rights by Creative Artists Agency. The book will be published in 2009 by Spiegel & Grau, a division of Random House Inc.
In gambling, as in book-to-film deals, timing is everything. When publisher Julie Grau first read Raymer's 44-page proposal, she not only pushed to acquire the manuscript; she also told colleagues at Random House Films that they should grab the material for a movie. It wasn't hard to convey the message: Grau works down the hall from Peter Gethers, who runs Random House's in-house effort to co-produce screen adaptations of its books with Focus Features. But Gethers was one step ahead of her. He'd already seen the proposal and hopped a plane to the Toronto Film Festival, where he persuaded Focus execs to sign on.
"This was a case where the system worked the way it's supposed to at our company," said Gethers. "Our book people signed up a book, the film division got the option and everyone is pleased." But it wasn't quite so simple. Gethers initially made a low offer, noting that Raymer had only written a proposal. She and her agents held out for more money, betting the author could shop a finished book elsewhere. Gethers raised his offer. Did Raymer bluff him? Maybe. But the final deal, which neither side would disclose, had a happy ending. Especially for the first-time author, who'd never dreamed she'd have a writing career.
Less than seven years ago, Raymer moved to Las Vegas to become a cocktail waitress. Instead, she was hired as an assistant to a professional sports gambler and got an insider's look at an intense, dangerous world. Later she applied to Columbia University's master's program on her boyfriend's advice and, most important, took a nationally known course in nonfiction book writing from Samuel G. Freedman. "We loved the material," said David Gerson of Focus Features. "It's got a dramatic setting and has a major role for a terrific actress. For us, it's a natural."